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Words of Life

Shame And Blame

By Sharon Hodde Miller November 13, 2022 Words of Life

One of the brilliant things about Scripture is that every inch of its wisdom runs a mile deep. There are no shallows. You cannot plumb its depths. There is always more to discover.

Returning to the garden of Eden, I want you to notice that everything falls apart in a very specific order. The serpent deceives Eve, she eats the fruit she has been forbidden from eating, and then her husband eats it too. Then, as soon as sin enters the world, two new afflictions follow on its heels.

Shame and blame.

Shame invades the garden as soon as Adam and Eve realize their nakedness (Genesis 3:7). Soon after, they are confronted with their disobedience, but neither is willing to take responsibility for their actions. Instead, they opt for blame. Adam points to Eve (v. 12), Eve points to the serpent (v. 13), and this entire series of events becomes the template for how we process the brokenness of the world. Shame and blame.

Keep that in mind.

Now fast-forward thousands of years to the final moments of Jesus’s life, where we observe a similar progression. First, Jesus is mocked and humiliated, before being stripped naked and hung on a cross (John 19), an image that directly echoes the nakedness of Adam and Eve. Shame.

Then, as Jesus exhales his final breath, he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46 NIV). In that moment, he experiences the separation and alienation of taking humanity’s sin on himself. Blame.

Right there, in the middle of Jesus’s final moments on earth, is a reenactment of Adam and Eve’s final moments in the garden. Shame and blame. Except this time, these events are not transpiring under the limbs of a tree, but under the shadow of a cross.

And that’s not all.

Three days later, Jesus is raised to life in another garden, and the first person he appears to is a woman. A garden. A woman. Two more signs that Genesis 3 is happening in reverse. But no longer is a garden the backdrop of death; now it is the location of resurrection. And no longer is a woman the entry point of a lie; now she is the entry point of truth. Everything done in the garden is undone in Christ.

For those of us who follow Jesus, this reversal is necessary to recognize and understand. Ever since Adam and Eve first experienced the consequences of sin, humans have been relying on shame and blame to get things done. We shame people into behaving, apologizing, and “doing the right thing.” Why? Because we think we can use the tools of the devil to accomplish the will of God.

But in this great undoing, Jesus doesn’t look at our shame and blame with the same kind of cynical shrewdness. He does not declare, “I can use this! Shame is so effective at motivating my disciples!” Oh no. Jesus looked at our shame and our blame, and he nailed them to the cross. In doing so, he definitively denounced the use of shame and blame as “tools for good.” They are eternally unfit for the kingdom of God.

Jesus’s answer to the shame of sin was not more shame. His answer was sacrificial, unconditional love, and that is still his message today. The next time you feel tempted to use shame—either to control others or to feel in control of yourself—remember that shame is not how our Father speaks to his kids. And the next time you hear the voice of shame in your own ear, remind yourself that shame is not the voice of God, it’s the voice of his enemy. God leads and influences us not with condemnation and control, but with love. And thankfully, his love is not like ours.

It is better.


Sharon Hodde Miller joins Randy and Sheila this Monday on LIFE TODAY. Excerpted from The Cost Of Control by Sharon Hodde Miller. Copyright ©2022 by Sharon Hodde Miller. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission.

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